Albuera police chief asks CIDG: Why was Espinosa killed over 1 gun?
ORMOC CITY — The killing of Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. will have a chilling effect on the other witnesses against police and government officials charged for allegedly providing protection to the illegal drugs operation run by his son, Roland “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr.
“It can instill fear among them. What is the guarantee that they are still safe?” asked Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, Albuera municipal police chief.
Espenido was the one who convinced Espinosa to execute an affidavit and identify the government and police officials who provided protection to his son Kerwin’s illegal drug trade, the biggest in Eastern Visayas.
The mayor identified 226 names including 19 politicians, four from the judiciary, 38 policemen, seven from Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), one from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, three from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, one from the Army and three from the media.
Separate complaints were later filed against 47 out of the 226 names at the Office of the Ombudsman, the prosecutors’ office and the Philippine National Police.
These included seven government officials including Sen. Leila de Lima, 33 police officers and seven private individuals.
Mayor Espinosa was a vital witness to these cases.
In exchange of the affidavit, Espenido assured the mayor of his safety and allowed him to stay in his police station until Oct. 5 when he was transferred to a sub-provincial jail in Baybay City to face charges of illegal possession of firearms and drugs.
Exactly a month after his transfer to the facility, Espinosa was killed in what the Criminal Investigation Group in Eastern Visayas (CIDG-8) claimed was a shootout.
Fifteen members of the CIDG team barged into the facility at 3 a.m. on Nov. 5 to serve a search warrant on Espinosa whom they suspected to be keeping shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) inside his cell.
The CIDG-8 claimed that Espinosa shot them, prompting them to fire at him, hitting the mayor in the head, chest and stomach.
Also killed in the raid was Raul Yap, a native of Albuera who was detained on drug charges.
The raiding team recovered a .38-pistol and a pack of shabu from the cell of Espinosa and a .45-pistol, 27 packs of marijuana and 21 sachets of shabu from Yap.
Before they left, the CIDG reportedly took the hard drive connected to the close circuit television cameras.
Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Philippine National Police chief, who assured Espinosa of his safety, ordered an investigation on the shootout.
A team from Camp Crame arrived on Sunday to start their investigation on the deaths of Espinosa and Yap.
Espenido said he was surprised by the raid conducted by the CIDG on Espinosa who was killed for allegedly possessing a single firearm.
“We have conducted raids (against Espinosa) involving packs of shabu and cache of firearms. We did not harm or kill him. He eventually surrendered. But for a single firearm (he was killed)?” Espenido said.
He told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he planned to visit the wake of Espinosa in his house in Barangay Tinago, Albuera.
“I will apologize to his family. I really thought that he would be safe if he was detained at the (Leyte sub-provincial jail) but unfortunately, he was killed,” Espenido said.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to reach Supt. Marvin Marcos, CIDG-8 chief, but he declined to grant an interview.
Incidentally, Marcos’ aunt, Lalaine Jimenea, publisher of a local paper in Ormoc was one of those who were linked by Espinosa to Kerwin’s illegal drug operation.
Jimenea, who had denied the charges, was among the seven persons charged at the Regional State Prosecutor’s office in Leyte for allegedly receiving payola from Kerwin.
Aside from Jimenea, the others charged by Espenido after they were linked by Espinosa were Senator De Lima; Vice Mayor Jonah John Ungab of Ronda town in Cebu; businessmen Eufrocino “Winnie” Codilla Jr.; Victor Espina Jr., brother of former Philippine National Police officer-in-charge and retired Director
General Leonardo Espina; and retired Bureau of Jail Management and Penology warden Joseph Nuñez who was warden of the Ormoc City jail when Kerwin was previously detained.
Several policemen were also facing administrative complaints at the Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS).
Among them were Supt. Joey Masauding, former CIDG-8 director; Senior Supt. Jose Macanas, former Ormoc police director; and Supt.Ibrahim Jambiran, former intelligence police chief in Ormoc.
Espinosa was the prime witness in all these cases.
According to Albert Hidalgo, former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in Leyte, the affidavit executed by Espinosa lost its probative value with his death.
But he added the affidavit could be used to corroborate testimonies of other witnesses.
Hidalgo said the danger of using the affidavit of Espinosa in court was that it would be open to questions by the defense counsels during cross examination.
“The affidavit will just be hearsay (now that Espinosa is dead),” Hidalgo said.
Leilani Villarino, Espinosa’s legal counsel, said the family had not decided whether or not to press charges against the CIDG.
She said they would first wait for the outcome of the investigation before deciding on their next step. SFM